Roseville Joint Union School District trustees tonight will decide whether a state law requires the school to release seventh- through 12th-grade students for confidential medical appointments without parental consent, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 8/5). Current district policy permits dismissal of students for medical appointments without consulting parents "only in cases where health is at risk" because students would not seek help otherwise or in cases where "students fear a parent would hurt them if told about the appointment," the Sacramento Bee reports. However, some trustees say the provision is not effective because 25 students have already been released without parental notification since December, when the policy was written. Most students have been excused for appointments for pregnancy tests or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, school nurses said.
Most school districts in California interpret the state law concerning the appointments as a mandate that schools release students for medical appointments related to reproductive health, mental health and substance abuse without notifying their parents, an interpretation in agreement with the majority of the legal opinions the district has received concerning the matter. However, other lawyers say that the policy goes against "natural law" -- the philosophy that parents have ultimate authority over their children -- and that the district can legally require school officials to notify parents before letting students leave to receive medical care. Dana Cody, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation, told the school board in June that the district could comply with state law by notifying parents of their children's medical appointments without disclosing the nature of the appointments; parents' consent would not be required for the schools to release students for the appointments, according to Cody. Attorneys at two law firms that contract with the school district wrote letters refuting that interpretation; they said the use of the term "may" only means "a student's desire for confidential release may or may not occur," according to the Bee. They added that if the current policy is not upheld, students could sue the district in some situations. The California School Boards Association agrees that schools are obligated to maintain student confidentiality, and lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have sent a letter to the district to express support for the confidential medical appointments (Rosen, Sacramento Bee, 8/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.